May 27, 2022

Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month: Meet Soneé Mensing, Bayview Director of Human Resources

Category: AAPI Heritage Month

Author: Sonee Mensing

Soneé Mensing is Bayview’s Director of Human Resources and she reflects on her upbringing this Asian American & Pacific Islander Awareness month:

“What are you?” is a question I have been consistently asked throughout my childhood. And how does one respond to this? Okinawan and Caucasian, American, HUMAN! I am often met with “but you’re not really Asian” or “but you don’t look Asian.”  

My mother is Okinawan and my father is of English & Irish ancestry. My name has nothing to do with either. My name was made-up by my parents to rhyme with my amazing sister, Renee. To be honest, I hated my name as a child. I wanted what I thought was a ‘normal’ name like many of my childhood friends growing up. Not only did I look different but did I really have to have a weird name too?

I am the child of a military superhero, AKA Army Brat, and relocated often when my siblings and I were younger. My father was stationed in Leavenworth, Kansas, where we spent the rest of our childhood. And there, in what seemed like the middle of the earth, you were either Black or White. There was no ‘other’. I was confused, as were other mixed-race children at the military base. For 9 years, as my siblings and I went from elementary school through high school, we were designated as ‘other.’ It wasn’t until I was 17 years old and moved to Seattle Washington, where I encountered a complete culture shock.

The city was huge. The people were so diverse. The insensitive questions I was so accustomed to as a child have now turned into questions of curiosity – “I like your freckles” or “what nationality are you?” There were so many ‘others’ here! I fully acknowledge the reality that people are still confronted with the ugliness of stereotypes and racism. However, I felt an exhale of relief when coming from a small, isolated town to a huge metropolitan area like Seattle.

As I reflect on the many stories that my parents shared with me and my 3 other siblings, we will forever remain grateful for the wisdom and values they instilled in us. Their stories of overcoming barriers of being in an inter-racial marriage and raising and supporting 4 kids in a small town make me incredibly proud of who I am today. I see freckles on my two daughter’s faces and I can’t help but feel proud.

Let us celebrate and embrace each other’s uniqueness not only this month but every day. May you embrace your name, your whole being, your differences, and your story.

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